Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Deputy leader being probed for vote buying

Yongyuth case may sink PPP

Deputy leader being probed for vote buying


A vote-buying allegation against Yongyuth Tiyapairat, deputy leader of the People Power party, may result in the dissolution of the PPP if it is found to have had a hand in the alleged poll fraud, Election Commission (EC) chairman Apichart Sukhagganond said yesterday. The EC has not endorsed the election of Mr Yongyuth, who won the list MP seat in proportional representation zone 1, on suspicion that he had bought votes in Chiang Rai.

Mr Yongyuth testified to the EC yesterday. His failure to disprove the allegation could see him slapped with a red card, which means he would lose the right to contest any election for a year.

The poll commission spent three hours listening to Mr Yongyuth and all but one of his witnesses yesterday. The remaining withness is due to testify today.

Mr Yongyuth also hopes to watch a video tape that reportedly supports the vote-buying allegation against him today.

Mr Yongyuth was accused of bringing tambon and village heads from Chiang Rai to a meeting in Bangkok in October to discuss vote-buying plans.

Mr Apichart said the vote-buying allegation could be linked to the PPP and evidence against Mr Yongyuth included the meeting of grassroots leaders.

''It is possible [the PPP] could be dissolved if the party colluded [in the alleged vote-buying],'' the EC chairman said.

However, any decision to dissolve the party must come from the Constitution Court, he added.

Mr Apichart said the EC would rule whether Mr Yongyuth should be red-carded, and also whether the PPP should be held responsible as well.

The poll commission would make the two rulings at the same time, the EC chairman said.

Mr Apichart added that the examination of witnesses might not be concluded today.

Mr Yongyuth said yesterday that he was being framed by a political party which was competing with the PPP to form the next government.

He also claimed that some people were under pressure to level the vote-buying accusations against him.

Mr Yongyuth said he had nothing to do with the Bangkok meeting of grassroots leaders.

It was a set-up aimed at landing him in trouble, said the PPP deputy leader.

''There is a mastermind behind all this. Information and witnesses were created by those on the opposite side.''

Meanwhile, Pol Maj-Gen Chaiya Siri-ampankul, deputy chief of the Special Branch police who headed the initial investigation into Mr Yongyuth's case at the EC's sub-committee level, said yesterday that a certain election commissioner had not returned a copy of the initial investigation report.

Mr Apichart confirmed this but did not name the commissioner in question.

It was suspected that the copy may have been leaked to Mr Yongyuth to help him prepare his defence yesterday.

Somchai Juengprasert was the only election commissioner who did not attend the EC's session on the case against Mr Yongyuth although he was at the EC headquarters yesterday.

However, Mr Somchai denied yesterday that he had taken sides with the PPP, saying that it was useless to bribe only one election commissioner because the four other EC members could still reach a verdict on election cases.

Meanwhile, the EC yesterday issued a red card to Sunthorn Wilawan, deputy leader of the Matchimathipataya party, for vote-buying.

Mr Sunthorn was a winning candidate in constituency 1 of Prachin Buri province.

The red card means he cannot run in a by-election expected on Jan 20.

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